Fan Duel Toronto Raptors

Morning Coffee – Fri, Dec 21

24-9 TL;DR – Lowry injured, team being cautious; also rest of team is pretty banged up-joy; Danny Green is legit; refs missed critical call in Raptors/Pacers game-meh; Cavs in town for a beating. Cautious Raptors will likely sit Lowry | Toronto Sun Well, he’s got the thigh contusion and it’s kind of leading to some…


TL;DR – Lowry injured, team being cautious; also rest of team is pretty banged up-joy; Danny Green is legit; refs missed critical call in Raptors/Pacers game-meh; Cavs in town for a beating.

Cautious Raptors will likely sit Lowry | Toronto Sun

Well, he’s got the thigh contusion and it’s kind of leading to some other issues I think too with some spasms here and there so we are trying to navigate through that,” Nurse said sounding purposefully vague. “It’s a little like Norm (Powell) a while back where we thought he was making a lot of improvement (with his shoulder injury) and then all of a sudden there was a setback and then that setback went away. These things are tricky.”

If this is a case of the Raptors being a little overly cautious, we suggest that there is probably not a better time to do so.

The Raptors are 1 1/2 games solidly in front of the Eastern Conference and league as a whole and have been finding some chemistry of late with other parts of the lineup.

Lowry has not played since Dec. 12 in that huge win over Golden State. Should he sit out the next two, that will give him a full two weeks between games with the next one after Saturday’s game in Philadelphia in Miami on Boxing Day.

It’s never a bad idea to err on the side of caution with a player, particular a player who turns 33 in March and is putting up some big time minutes when he does play.

As mentioned previously in this spot, any absence is going to take away valuable time for gelling with the Raptors other main cog in Kawhi Leonard but extending an absence now may be preferable to having to find him rest later on or worse compounding that thigh injury.

Raptors showing resiliency over difficult stretch –

“There’s just a sense of swagger that good teams have,” VanVleet said. “We’ve got guys who have played in big games, been down before and we’ve all been there before. So it’s understanding the moment, understanding the situation and what types of things you need to do to climb yourself out. Obviously it takes a lot of energy and effort and passion.”

The Raptors got off to a franchise-record 20-4 start to the season. As good as they looked doing it, a friendly early season schedule raised the question: How would they fare when adversity hits?

Well, it’s hit, at least to some degree. Ten of Toronto’s last 12 games have come against winning teams with seven of them coming on the road. They were without one of Lowry or Leonard in half of those 12 games. In addition, Ibaka, Siakam, Valanciunas, and VanVleet have all missed time over that span. Still, they managed to go 7-5, with impressive wins over the Warriors (twice), 76ers, Pacers, Clippers and Grizzlies. Meanwhile, the five losses came by a combined 24 points. They were in every game.

How much can we take from any of them? How much should they be taking from them? We’ve only seen the Raptors at full strength in one of their first 33 games. Nurse has been forced to improvise with his rotation and, to his credit, he doesn’t seem to mind. It’s enabled him to mix and match, to experiment with different combinations, and to see what works and what doesn’t, which may be beneficial later in the season.

As next week’s brief holiday break approaches, followed by the halfway point of the season, injuries will continue to test their resiliency.

Lowry, who has missed the last three games with a thigh contusion, isn’t expected to return until after Christmas. Ibaka has been dealing with some swelling in his knee and is considered questionable for this weekend’s back-to-back at home to Cleveland and in Philadelphia. Valanciunas will be out for at least another month after undergoing surgery on his dislocated thumb.

All the while, Kawhi and his new teammates are still getting comfortable with each other, the ever-changing second unit is still coming together and Nurse is still trying to decipher what his wing rotation will look like behind Leonard and Green, with C.J. Miles and OG Anunoby struggling and Norman Powell just returning from injury.

Do they have enough shooting? Do they need more rebounding? These are questions the team and its front office will need to figure out. Fortunately, they’ve still got time to do it.

SIMMONS: All Nick Nurse wants for Christmas is a healthy Raptors lineup | Toronto Sun

The optimism in this: The Raptors have the best record in the NBA and haven’t been able to get their full team on the court much.

The wonder: What will they look like when the best players are on court together? And that’s if the best players get on the court together.

“You’ve got to coach with what you have and who’s available,” said Nurse, sounding like every coach in the history of pro sports pulling out the manual of clichés. “And,” he points out, “not get discouraged.

“About eight more games and we’re going to be at the halfway point … We’d like to see the guys that are going to be there (when it matters). We’re hoping all this prepares us for foul trouble (in playoffs) or injuries or whatever we face down the line.” Nurse said he wants to be “ready about who these guys are without getting any false sense of who they aren’t.”

This normally doesn’t happen to teams leading their conference, leading their league. This does normally doesn’t happen to lineups that can’t find any consistency. The Raptors have played 21 games with Lowry and Kawhi Leonard playing together, 12 games without the all-star combination together.

Oddly enough, the Raps are 15-6 with Lowry and Kawhi together. And all that is going on with Leonard having the greatest statistical season of his career, when he’s playing, and there’s still this rehearsal thing that needs to worked out.

In reality, this season isn’t about finishing first in the league, even though they might finish first in the league. The season is about having Leonard healthy and ready come April, with Lowry playing, with Ibaka and Valanciunas sharing minutes, with Pascal Siakam being impossible to cover when the bright lights come on.


Raptors grappling with their lengthy injury list – The Globe and Mail

Despite the lengthy injury list, the Raptors pulled another rabbit out of the hat – playing poorly for the most part but sparking to life in the fourth quarter to beat the visiting Pacers 99-96 and end a two-game losing slide. The Raptors, 24-9, have the best record in the NBA.

“It was an ugly one from the start,” Green surmised of the Pacers game, in which the Raptors trailed by as many as 17 points in the third quarter. “The fourth was good, we showed some character. We came out. It was a gutsy, gritty win. I was surprised that we were still even in the game, how bad we were playing.

“At moments we were playing hard, but I just think we were stuck in mud, couldn’t get our legs, couldn’t get our rhythm, couldn’t get a flow.”

The Raptors won despite the absence of Lowry, their bulldog starting point guard, who missed his fourth successive game with what the team is describing as a thigh contusion. Ibaka, who has been sharing the starting centre duties with Valanciunas, was out resting his habitual sore right knee.

Valanciunas missed his fourth game with a dislocated left thumb and is still weeks from return.

The Raptors only recently welcomed back from sick bay Norm Powell, who missed 19 games with a left shoulder injury, while Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam have been battling periodic back soreness.

If any team needs a break, it’s the Raptors. But they’ve got a game Friday night at home against the Cleveland Cavaliers before travelling to Philadelphia to play the Sixers on Saturday.

Only then can they enjoy a bit of a mini-break through Christmas. They play in Miami against the Heat on Boxing Day.

Danny Green has been the most reliable of Raptors | The Star [paywall]

“A lot of times I still complain to this day to these guys that we need to do more stretching and more warming up before we start,” he said. “We have a lot of young guys here, so they can get on the court without stretching and keep playing. I’m like, ‘I’m not ready to go, I need some more activation.’ ”

Staying in the game is even more important to Green this year, coming off a season with the San Antonio Spurs where he played through a groin tear. He is not yet back to where he wants to be in terms of explosiveness, but hopes that part of his game will eventually return.

Initially something of a second thought in the unexpected trade that brought he and Kawhi Leonard to the Raptors for DeMar DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl, Green has cemented himself as much more than just a salary filler. On Wednesday, instead of Green being asked about his teammate for the umpteenth time since their joint introduction in September, it was Leonard’s turn to comment on Green.

“Danny goes out every night guarding the best (player) or just bringing a lot of energy on (the defensive) end,” Leonard said. “Whatever he does offensively, you just can’t leave him open. It’s just him being open-minded and him wanting to be a winner.”

In the recent dog days of December, when seven Raptors players have sat out at least one game through injury, Green’s availability has been an inconspicuous luxury for coach Nick Nurse. “I just looked at the board, I looked at all of the names in the rotation, and I said, ‘Jeez, he’s the only guy who’s played every night,’ ” Nurse said Wednesday.

Things aren’t expected to get much better for the Raptors in the immediate future. Jonas Valanciunas is out with a dislocated left thumb and Nurse was not optimistic about Kyle Lowry (thigh) or Serge Ibaka (knee) playing against Cleveland and Philadelphia on Friday and Saturday. “I would say Kyle is leaning toward the not so favourable and Serge is right in the middle.”

Green, who is averaging a career-high 29.9 minutes a game this season, is happy to be called on in their absence but is also looking forward to a four-day break after Toronto’s visit to Philadelphia.

“I think some of the guys are pretty banged up, got some bumps and bruises. If we can keep guys healthy … I think that’s the main goal right now so we can get our chemistry back.”

NBA announces critical call was missed in Pacers’ loss to the Raptors – Indiana Sports Coverage

O.G. Anunoby caught Bogdanovic on the arm during the play when the shot was going up. This appears to be a case of referees choosing to swallow the whistle in the final two minutes of a game.


Raptors win weird after Nick Nurse’s search through rotation finds small-ball spark – The Athletic [paywall]

“How long you got? It was a search,” Nurse said when asked about his late-game maneuvering. “To be honest, I was really disappointed with how we were playing, we were just backing out of there, giving them the basket. We just weren’t making any multiple efforts on the defensive end, they were shooting everything at the rim or open corner threes and I was really disappointed. But in the end we found, searching, searching, searching, I tried everybody for a little bit and then found a little groove and we finally started guarding and just told ‘em to stay with it … Malachi tried, we gave him a shot at it, and Lorenzo came up big.”

It’s the Brown gamble that paid off most strikingly. He’d play seven minutes, during which the Raptors closed the lead from 10 to two. He had a number of big rebounds, provided physical defence and was the unexpected spark, or at least part of the spark, the Raptors needed. Just before the start of the second half, Nurse warned Brown that he may call his name, which helped him focus in for the unusual deployment.

“Man, it’s very tough. I mean, you’ve gotta stay ready,” Brown said. “You keep your legs loose as much as possible and do whatever you’re told to do out there to help the team win. We were lacking that the whole night, physicality, and I feel like I brought that toward the end of the game, and it helped give us a great push of momentum to knock down open shots and seal the deal.”

Brown has almost established a weird trend of performing well in huge moments and otherwise providing middling production. He owns a minus-9.0 net rating on the year but has had big moments in swinging games against Dallas, Minnesota, Orlando and now Indiana, all tight games. He was great here, save for the ill-advised dunk attempt on Myles Turner.

Whatever his sense for the moment, it proved pivotal here, as Brown played almost the entirety of the fourth in a series of makeshift lineups with little to no experience together. Nurse used 20 different five-man combinations in the game, and the one primarily responsible for the comeback — Brown with Leonard, Danny Green, Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet — had never played together before Wednesday.

“With these last two weeks, it’s been challenging with some guys going down, me missing two games, K-Low being out, Serge being out,” Leonard said. “We’ve had a lot of different lineups play these last six games, four games. You’ve just got to stick with it. When you’re at practice, just see who is in front of you and try to duplicate it.”

Raptors’ Fred VanVleet rewarded for gutsy performance vs. Pacers –

Thursday’s belt went to Raptors point guard Fred VanVleet. He started Wednesday’s game in place of the injured Kyle Lowry and, over the course of his 31 minutes, probably wasn’t enjoying himself at all. He went 1-of-12 from the field through the first three quarters. He’d missed all six three-pointers he’d attempted. Entering the fourth, he was a minus-9.

But his fourth quarter was a doozy. He played hounding defence on Pacers star Victor Oladipo, particularly during the game’s final moments, when he helped force a possession-changing jump ball. He was in gaps. He made deft decisions to help off his man when needed. He came down with a big rebound.

And, not to be forgotten, he hit the game-winning three-pointer — one of his three in the quarter — with less than half a minute remaining, giving his team the lead for the first time since the game’s opening minutes. VanVleet received the belt for the other stuff — the plays you can’t find in a gamebook. But he sees it a little differently.

“For me, it’s the shot,” he said after practice on Thursday, the belt resting on his left shoulder. “Let the coaches say it’s for something on the defensive end.”

No matter, it’s an award well earned. The Raptors, playing without three regular starters against a game Pacers team currently fourth in the conference, had to work exceptionally hard for Wednesday’s triumph. All things considered, it would have been easy to fold.

Listen: Locked on Raptors #439 – Raptors stifle Pacers late, w/ Josh Howe – Raptors HQ

In Episode 439 of Locked on Raptors, Sean Woodley chats with Josh Howe about the Raptors’ 99-96 robbery of a win against the Pacers including the fourth quarter defensive lockdown, Pascal Siakam getting figured out a little bit by opposing defenders, Pirate Danny Green’s late heroics and, uhm… which Raptors would be the best at wrapping Christmas gifts? Full disclosure, Sean’s pretty tired and may be in the beers a bit.


Does a Terrence Ross reunion actually make sense for Raptors? –

Does a Terrence Ross reunion actually make sense for Raptors?

Jones: Lowry comments haven’t derailed Raptors on the court –

TSN 1050 Raptors voice Paul Jones talked to Matt Cauz about Kyle Lowry’s comments regarding his relationship with Masai Ujiri and if home court advantage is really a big deal in the NBA.

Tipoff: Cavaliers at Raptors | Toronto Sun

MARQUEE MATCHUP: Kawhi Leonard vs. Rodney Hood

Slim pickings here with all the youth and injuries dominating the Cavs lineup. Hood has been solid of late averaging 16.8 over the past five games and shooting 51% from the field. Leonard is three games under his belt since the hip injury cost him a couple on the west coast road trip and has his legs back under him and is shooting the ball with authority. He’s had 28, 28 and 29 points in those three games playing 38 minutes a night.

Friday NBA preview: Cleveland Cavaliers at Toronto Raptors | The Star [paywall]



Cleveland guard Jordan Clarkson bring some firepower off the bench for the Cavaliers, averaging a career-high 16.8 points a night in 31 games. Clarkson was rested on Tuesday against Indiana after suffering from lower back soreness but had 20 points Wednesday against Charlotte. He’ll have to put in work to best Danny Green, a defensive stalwart battling some bumps and bruises of his own.